MIDDLETOWN – In the quiet of the losing locker room, Fox Lane coach Mike Tomassi reminded his players of something. Sure, they were disheartened their season was over, but it was important to him that none of them forgot the truth.
“I told the kids inside that this season’s going to be remembered until they tear Fox Lane down,” said Tomassi, a Fox Lane grad himself. “We’re going to be long, long gone and the year that Fox Lane beat Mount Vernon in the sectional final is going to live on forever.”
The Foxes were left to consider the bigger picture Friday after their Class AA state regional final against Middletown. They were outplayed throughout and fell 62-44 to the Section 9 champ at Orange County Community College.
The Bears (19-4), who reached the state final four for the first time since 1995, will play the Long Island champion (Baldwin or Half Hollow Hills West) at 2:15 on March 12 at the Glens Falls Civic Center. They had four players in double figures Friday, led by two-sport star Jordan Bryan, who had 17.
Middletown used its athleticism to push the pace and attack off the dribble. It allowed the Bears to build a lead as large as 20 points.
“I think they just wanted it more than us all game. It’s not like their athleticism destroyed us, like it was nothing we had seen before,” Fox Lane senior Alex Olsen said after scoring a game-high 20 points. “They were a very athletic team and very talented, but I just think they wanted it more than us today.”
The Foxes (22-4) trailed 28-21 at halftime, but they were within six points, 30-24, after a 3-pointer by Sean New. The senior then missed on a 3 from the left wing that could’ve trimmed the deficit to three and Middletown dominated the rest of the way.
“Only a couple of teams this year have been able to get us out of what we do. When they do, unfortunately we lose games,” Tomassi said. “Our goal today was to make them adjust, but unfortunately we didn’t. We had to start to adjust. When a team has to adjust, it’s hard to win games like that.”
With Middletown’s defense focused on defending its shooters, Fox Lane made just four 3-pointers as a team. New scored eight points and senior Matt Redhead — the Section 1 tournament MVP — was limited to four points before fouling out.
Kyle Brown added 12 points for the Bears and Daniel Grant and Kenneth Middleton each had 11. Middleton said his team watched Fox Lane’s recent games and learned what it could do better.
“The other teams they weren’t really playing defense,” he said. “They were sagging off them like they can’t shoot. We were perfecting their defense, basically, and getting our hands in their faces.”
Redhead’s foul trouble left the Foxes without a counterpunch. He was whistled for his fourth with 5:51 left in the third quarter and his team trailing 33-24. He returned late in the third quarter with the deficit at 17 and then fouled out with 4:03 remaining in the fourth.
Against a physical and balanced opponent, Fox Lane was a team without an answer.
“We knew exactly what they were going to do. It was, can we stop it or not?” Tomassi said. “Unfortunately, I think they’re more athletic than us, a little more physical than us. If you don’t bear down and defend hard, you’re going to get exposed and we got exposed.”